The Rock Cycle, 2016-2017

© Ilana Halperin. The Rock Cycle, 2016-17. Photo: Latitudes

The Rock Cycle, 2016-2017

Ilana Halperin

I trained as a stone carver, but I had gone from an interest in carving to an interest in the processes that made stone.

And I know, we are humans, we are bones and muscle and brains and blood, but the wrought iron which adorns this city is the same iron that is in my body, and the limestone walls are as carbonate as my bones. We are animal and mineral at the same time.
Ilana Halperin


The Rock Cycle deals with geological intimacy and vivacity, and the fact that something as apparently inert and certain as stone was once marine life from a tropical ocean of the Oligocene epoch, around 32 million-years ago.

Halperin addresses stone not as dead matter or a mere resource, but as a story-laden substance that both surpasses and partners in humans’ view of the world. The Rock Cycle incorporates the reading of a letter and a number of the artist’s geological sculptures.

These ‘curios’ originated as fragments of sea-weathered brick from the Isle of Bute in western Scotland, as well as waterjet-cut sandstone that the artist left for three months in the calcifying springs of Fontaines Pétrifiantes in Saint-Nectaire. For seven generations the mineral-rich waters that percolate through the rock at this site in central France have been used to create sculptures using the same process that forms stalactites in a cave, only one hundred times faster. Objects rapidly become encrusted in new layers of stone.  In these works, Scottish Sandstone and eroded bricks merge with layers of French rock, creating new international conglomerates.

Ilana Halperin (US)


Ilana Halperin is an artist, originally from New York, and currently based in Glasgow. Her work deals with geological intimacy, vivacity, and the uncanny fact that something as apparently inert and certain as stone was once liquid, airborne, ash and alive. For over twenty years her work has explored the relationship between geology and daily life. She has boiled milk in a 100 degree Celsius sulphur spring; talked with geologists inside a lava tube inhabited by life-affirming bacteria; formed sculptures in caves and hot springs; spent time with geology collections formed inside the body; and held the Allende Meteorite, the oldest known object in the solar system.

In her practice, Halperin works with earth scientists, in natural history collections, in the studio and in remote geological field environments. Recent solo exhibitions include Geologic Intimacy (Yu no Hana), Fujiya Gallery, Beppu, Japan; The Library, National Museum of Scotland; Steine, Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité; Hand Held Lava, Schering Stiftung, Berlin and Physical Geology (slow time), Artists Space, New York. She was Artist-Curator of geology for Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, in the birthplace of Charles Darwin. The Library of Earth Anatomy, a permanent commission at The Exploratorium in San Francisco has recently opened. Schering Stiftung, Berlin published a monograph of her work entitled New Landmass. Ilana shares her birthday with the Eldfell volcano in Iceland.

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